The Tour Down Under regularly hosts high profile guests each January in Adelaide as major stakeholders of the sport jet down under for discussions, meetings, and sunshine. UCI president Brian Cookson and Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme were expected to meet last month at the race only for a late flight cancellation to ensure a postponement of UCI and ASO discussions. In attendance, however, was Tour de Yorkshire race director Gary Verity, who deals with both men and could possibly be the person to mediate the next meeting between the duo.
Verity was making his second appearance at the Tour Down Under this year, having first visited in 2012, and he explained to Cyclingnews that the WorldTour season-opener gave him and his team plenty of food for thought for both the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ and the first running of the British 2.HC stage race last year.
"I think that it's a really good model for this kind of race. Clearly if you are doing a Grand Tour that’s not possible, but for this race it I think it works really well so we borrowed that idea," Verity explained.
The parcours for the second edition of the Tour de Yorkshire was announced back in December. Verity provided further detail on what has changed for both riders and fans this year following the debut edition, which was won by Team Sky's Lars Petter Nordhaug.
"We’ve taken feedback on board from the riders and teams that the first stage was just a little bit too hard; it was probably more savage than people expected it to be so we’ve toned down stage 1, [though] it’s still a long way at 185 kilometres," he said. "There are still some climbs in it but it's not as savage as last year's first stage, where, for example, Marcel Kittel had to abandon.
"The second stage, 135 kilometres, is very much a sprinters' stage and we’ve done exactly the same stage for the men’s and women’s stage which is the feedback we’ve had from the female cyclists that they didn’t want a shorter stage; they wanted the same stage as the men.
"The third stage is a very tough stage. 195 kilometres long, six categorised climbs, over 2500 metres of ascent. It’s a real classic."
There will be live television coverage of the race for all three stages, following feedback from the public as Verity explained, with an additional one-hour nightly highlights package. It's not all about the broadcast, though, as Verity proceeded to detail just what the fans who line the roadside can expect.
"We are also going to animate the route more for the spectators so we’ll have a mini publicity caravan, like you have here at the Tour Down Under, where we will prescribe places on the route," he said.
"So we’ll have the start and finish, like in Willunga Hill were the vehicles pull up, people get out give away their goodies, man blows a whistle everybody gets back in, off we trot. Same thing for us, we’ll do the start, finish and we’ll pick probably four places along the route. We’ll publish those in advance stating the publicity caravan will be at these places at these times so the public aren’t standing by the road sides for the vans to come by and that’s it. Those will be places where we know there will be big crowds so those will likely be climbs to help encourage the crowd there, and means there will be something for the crowd to see."
Verity speaks of the Tour de Yorkshire in enthusiastic and excited tones. When the questions turn to the future of the race and his ambitions to introduce a fourth day of racing, a tone of frustration and determinism emerges in his answers.
"It’s a fact of life, we are obviously disappointed that we don’t have four days this year," he said of the decision that saw the race remain at three days for 2016. "The race needs to be four days, it needs to have two flat stages and two hilly stages to give it a better balance then we can do things with the race, we can have options.
"One year I’d like to have maybe a short team time trial in the morning one day then do a short stage in the afternoon, maybe a 90k stage or something like that. I’d like to do things that are innovative, not to get into a fixed model all the time, but certainly four days and four days is the right period of time for this race. It will be Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, still the first bank holiday weekend of May every year.
"It sits well in the calendar but four days is very much where we need to move to. We wanted to move it this time, the UCI was very supportive of it, you heard Brian Cookson say yesterday that he was perplexed as to why British Cycling wouldn’t see it happen, the sponsors wanted that, the riders definitely wanted that. A number of riders have said to me that we’d much rather it was four days. There is a big appetite for that, we just have the powers that be at British Cycling, and there is one man in particular there we have to change his mind."
While Cookson and Prudhomme have their difference regarding the WorldTour reforms, both have backed the Tour de Yorkshire acquiring a fourth day.
"We’ve been talking to British Cycling about it and I think in the fullness of time we can get a solution that works for all parties," said Cookson of the current situation, while Prudhomme stated, "I really think it would be good for the race to have a fourth day given the extraordinary passion the people of Yorkshire have for cycling."
With backing from ASO and the UCI - but critically not British Cycling - for a four-day race, Cyclingnews asked Verity of the importance of becoming Britain's first WorldTour event considering his current quagmire.
"I am less anxious about it than getting the race to four days," he said frankly. "The priority is to get the race to four days. There are advantages to being WorldTour and then the downside of that is that I couldn’t include as many of the British teams I wanted, which gives it that real domestic flavour. We’ll have plenty of WorldTour teams this time and we’ll have Pro-Continental teams, then we’ll have the Continental teams which is of course where the next potential generation of up and coming riders come from. The thing that is very important for us is the four days."
While the race's name clearly spells out that is the Tour de 'Yorkshire', Verity explained that he is open to geographical innovation that would see the event explore further than the 11, 903 square kilometres the county of Yorkshire consists of.
"This time, we start in Middlesbrough on the final day, which is not in Yorkshire anymore as the boundary was changed in 1974," he said. "We are not against starting stages outside Yorkshire, within reason; we don’t want to start at the other end of the UK -that would be crazy - but neighbouring areas, no problem."
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